What I’m Reading
In lieu of a traditional “What I’m Streaming,” we’re mixing things up a bit (be sure to check out Bill’s thoughtful entry on the late Anthony Bourdain).
It’s summer, so turn off the TV and close the laptop. Go outside. Crack open an honest-to-God book. For “What I’m Reading,” here’s ten picks for summer reads, all inspired by your favorite streaming shows.
Recommended if you like: Ozark
Yes, there’s a movie, and it’s pretty damn good! Know what else is pretty damn good? The book! If country noir is your jam, look no further than Daniel Woodrell’s 2006 masterpiece. Set in the most impoverished parts of the Ozarks, Winter’s Bone deals with family, mystery, and crystal meth. Heroine Ree Dolly’s hunt for her missing father—dead or alive—is both gritty and gripping, and Woodrell’s depiction of one of America’s most overlooked regions feels real and lived-in. It’s an engaging look at survival and struggle in dire straits, as well as an instant modern noir classic.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Recommended if you like: Bill Nye Saves the World
Looking for something light, but still smart? Celebrity scientist and Twitter buzzkill Neil DeGrasse Tyson has you covered. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry gives readers a down-to-Earth look at some of the most complicated science around. Tyson’s prose is both detailed and conversational, making topics like the shape of the universe approachable instead of incomprehensible.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
Recommended if you like: Literally any true crime documentary on Netflix
A chronicle of the late crime writer Michelle McNamara’s search for the Golden State Killer, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark offers an in-depth examination of one of America’s longest-running mysteries; one only recently solved this year. McNamara’s hunt for the mastermind behind some of California’s most brutal murders is downright chilling, and the lengths she goes to crack the case are incredible. Though she didn’t live to see it, McNamara’s dream eventually came true. HBO plans a miniseries based on the book, as well.
Recommended if you like: Stranger Things
From writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Cliff Chiang, Paper Girls will scratch that ‘80s sci-fi itch for any fan of the Duffer Brothers and Stephen King. Beginning on Halloween 1988, four newspaper delivery girls find themselves in the middle of time-bending mystery that turns their world upside down. Wrapped in nostalgia with just enough teen drama, Vaughan’s tight dialogue and Chiang’s sharp artwork gives Paper Girls an edge that ought to stave away those otherworldly horror withdrawals for a good while.
When Gravity Fails
Recommended if you like: Altered Carbon
The first of George Alex Effinger’s Budayeen Cycle series is When Gravity Fails, which looks at the pursuit of perfection and the depths of human nature through a sci-fi lens. Set in the Middle East of the future, body modification and decadence have risen to new heights: plug-ins and modules that enhance the brain, mind-bending drugs for any occasion, and perfected plastic surgery. When street hustler Marid finds himself entangled in a series of murders, the novel’s cyberpunk stylings swing noir. Sci-fi legend Harlan Ellison calls it “crazy as a spider on ice skates…plain old terrific.”
The Daily Show (The Book)
Recommended if you like: The Break with Michelle Wolf
Before The Break, the White House Correspondents Dinner, or Nice Lady, Michelle Wolf cut her teeth on The Daily Show. While Trevor Noah’s tenure behind the desk has been a hit, the show wouldn’t have its reputation without Jon Stewart and his team. The Daily Show (The Book) is an oral history that spans from the show’s earliest beginnings with Craig Kilborn all the way to the passing of the torch from Stewart to Noah. It’s a detailed, revealing look at the stories—and drama—behind one of television’s most iconic shows. Interviews with writers, correspondents (including Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, John Oliver, and others), and guests give fascinating insight into the series’ evolution from late-night spoof to Peabody winning satire.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Recommended if you like: The Handmaid’s Tale
I know, I’m cheating, but Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel isn’t just good, it’s important—especially today. Atwood’s prose is vivid, lending Offred (or June, if you’re not into dehumanizing women) a live voice and giving her story a chilling sense of reality. The Falwell-esque Gilead might be fictional, but the ideals it represents are very much real. (If you’ve already read it, then check out some of Atwood’s other fiction, like Oryx and Crake, which tackles powerful corporations and overconsumption of resources. It’s followed by two others in a trilogy: The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam.)
Recommended if you like: Lost in Space
A team of scientists—and a family—find themselves shunted onto another planet with almost no hope of returning home. Sound familiar? Unlike Lost in Space, however, Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera’s Black Science doesn’t sit still. Science anarchist Grant McKay and his crew bounce through different realities and fight for survival against twisted histories and alien worlds, all while trying to figure out who sabotaged their dimension-bending transporter. With whip-smart dialogue and dynamic art, Black Science is a high octane sci-fi adventure that’ll have you Wikipedia’ng multiversal theory and wondering if you’ve got an evil twin—or if it’s you.
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union
Recommended if you like: The Man in the High Castle
From novelist Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union supposes an alternate history where after World War II, European Jews settled in Alaska after the United States followed the recommendations of the 1940 Slattery Report. Set in the Yiddish metropolis of Sitka, it follows homicide detective Meyer Landsman as he unravels a spiraling mystery of the murder of the (maybe) Messiah. It’s a tangled web of political and religious intrigue that should grip sci-fi fans and history buffs alike.
Recommended if you like: BoJack Horseman
No, not the cigarette-hawking cartoon you remember from reruns. In Mark Russell and Steve Pugh’s reimagining, The Flintstones is more Mad Men than The Honeymooners. Instead of recycled sitcom plots, Russell’s writing skewers and satirizes modern life with purpose—and real bite. Fred and company navigate late stage capitalism, organized religion, and post-traumatic stress disorder. If this sounds too heavy for Hanna-Barbera, don’t worry. The animals still talk and there’s puns galore, but you’ll never hear “yabba-dabba-doo” the same way again.